Many persons across the country and around the world are required to stay at home in an attempt to curb the spread of this highly infectious disease, COVID-19. The order of life has definitely changed, including our various lifestyle adaptations to include exercise and physical activity engagement. However, staying home may encourage sedentary behaviour (lying down all day, sitting all day, etc.), anxiety, depression, and physical inactivity which in and of itself is a huge public health crisis and leading risk factor for death.
Encouraging persons and families to stay physically active while at home is of significant public health importance. Many of us participate in exercise for various reasons to include improving or optimizing health, improving sports performance, maintaining fitness or improving our physiques. Unfortunately, the gyms, fitness centres, sports clubs and some parks are closed, and maybe your exercise partners are staying home in an attempt to maintain social distancing.
Importance of Exercise During Quarantine/Social Distancing
The good news is you can remain physically active while at home, and this is important. Persons with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease etc. are a high risk group as it relates to COVID-19,and if these persons stay at home and practice sedentary behaviours this will increase their risk of worsening their health, so it is important they find ways to remain physically active at home.
When exercises are performed at moderate-intensity this helps to boost your immune system, and more immune strengthening benefits are gained if exercise is combined with some morning sunlight (to gain vitamin D) in fresh air, followed by the consumption of water and fresh fruits. However, if you are not accustomed to exercises at high intensity, this may suppress your immune function for a short while. Exercise during this time also helps us to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
(Exercising at Home) Even though you are home, everyone is still encouraged to gain at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or exercise daily. Exercises can be aerobic in nature, involve muscle strengthening and stretching activities. Persons who are unsure about how much physical activity is needed for persons in their home, whether children or the elderly or persons with chronic conditions, you can contact a health professional especially a physiotherapist for advice.
Examples of Aerobic Activities: Inside: Put on your favourite music walk around the house or climb the stairs 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times for the day, dancing, jump rope (if you are accustomed), do an exercise video, use your home cardio machines (dust them off please), be creative do a Zoom meeting with your friends and have a 30 minute exercise session probably could ask your fitness trainer to instruct.
Outside: Walk or jog around the community/neighbourhood (maintain 2 metres or 6 feet from others), spend time in nature (immune enhancing), bicycle riding, home gardening, walking to nearby stores and fun active games with the family.
Strength Training Activities: Download workout apps, watch videos done by certified fitness coaches, yoga (deep breathing and mindfulness are good for reducing stress and anxiety). Other exercises that can be done at home: squats, sit to stands, wall/counter-top/floor push-ups, lunges, step ups and carrying grocery bags.
Precautions & Concerns COVID-19 Symptoms
If you are under quarantine and infected but no symptoms, you can continue moderate intensity exercise and continue to adhere to hygienic practices and social distancing guidelines. If you develop symptoms i.e. fever, cough and/or shortness of breath then STOP EXERCISING, contact your health care provider and follow the Ministry of Health protocols/guidelines.
Shortness of Breath - If you are home and start to experience shortness of breath, this could be as a result of COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses or maybe anxiety, if this is your only symptom then contact a physical therapists who is trained in cardiopulmonary management who can educate and instruct you on various breathing exercises and positions that can help you to alleviate the shortness of breath.
Fever & Exercise - please do NOT attempt to exercise to “sweat out” a fever. Febrile Illnesses decrease muscle strength and endurance and increase fatigue. Exercising with an infectious illness while displaying symptoms such as fever, may increase the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles), which can be mild or life threatening.
Be Safe and Keep Active!